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Cleaning Paint Brushes

Cleaning your paint brushes and paint roller covers during or after a painting project can be about as fun as taking out the garbage. The difference is, it may take a little longer than the task of disposing your smelly stuff, and if it isn’t done correctly, can actually give you problems. Think of your paint brushes and paint roller covers as small investments for your home improvement painting projects. And as with any investment, taking proper care when cleaning painting brushes will give you better rewards in the long run.

What are the best ways to clean a paint brush or roller cover?
When painting around the house we usually find ourselves painting in phases. Let’s face it, whether we’re repainting the entire house or just a couple rooms, we often split the project up over a session or two or more. In between, we may have breaks of anywhere from an hour to overnight, or maybe even days or weeks. Let’s cover what’s best when cleaning paint brushes in these scenarios.

When returning to painting in under an hour or so, a thorough cleaning of your paint brushes and roller covers is not necessary. Simply leave brushes submersed in water for latex based paints, and in a solvent like mineral spirits for alkyd and oil based paints. Some suggest just wrapping the brush in damp paper towel. While this may be fine for a half hour, if for any reason, you don’t end up coming back as soon as planned, having the brush in water will assure any paint on the brush will not dry. For roller covers, just wrap them in plastic or aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator. This will also work if saving them until the next day. Remove any applicators you have in the fridge 30 minutes or so before going back to work. One thing to remember when putting the brush under water. Make sure it’s not resting on it’s bristles. One trick is to affix the brush handle to a wooden paint stirrer so that the stirrer is touching the bottom of the container and not the end of the brush.

Cleaning brushes in between projects
So, what about coming back in a few days, weeks or longer? This is where you need to thoroughly clean your all your painting tools, including brushes and roller covers. Doing so will prolong the life of your paint applicators, saving you headache and money.

Before you start cleaning, always remove as much paint as possible still left on the brush. You can use a 5-in-1 tool or a paint stick stirrer, which also has a curved side on it, to slide off paint back into the paint can. Next, remove as much as you can of what’s still left on the brush. Old newspapers work well for this, for both brushes and roller covers.

Finally, rinse latex paint brushes in warm water until water runs through the brush clear. To be more thorough, you can use a dab of dish soap along with a fine metal brush. Lay your paint brush down flat and run the wire brush from the bottom of the bristles to their tips. Never brush the bristles back and forth or from side to side. When done, use a paint brush spinner to dry or spin in your hands. Air drying is fine too as long the brush can be hung or lie flat. When dried, place your brush into it’s original packagine or wrap in paper with a rubber band. For brushes with oil-based paint on them, rinse with paint thinner or minteral spirits while combing out any left-over paint with a bursh comb.

For brushes with dried paint, you’ll need to buy special brush cleaner. After an initial soaking, you can usually work the dried paint out with a brush comb. For shellac or other alchohol based paints or stains, you can use dentured alcohol in place of paint thinner.

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